The Aberdeen Bay Wind Farm, an offshore wind demonstration facility off the coast of Aberdeenshire, in the North Sea, Scotland. ZANASZANAS VIA WIKIPEDIA
When big oil companies dismantle rigs and switch to building new turbines, it has the ring of something good. Our thanks to Yale E360 for this news brief:
Having won rights to develop wind farms off the coast of Scotland, Shell, Total, and BP are set to invest more in wind power than in oil and gas drilling in the North Sea in the years ahead, the latest evidence of oil majors changing tack on renewables to better navigate the energy transition. Continue reading
A cyclist in Berlin, Germany. HENDRIK WIEDUWILT VIA FLICKR
Thanks to Yale E360 for Berlin Looks to Create Car-Free Zone Larger Than Manhattan, a snapshot of the city’s fewer cars campaign, with links to further details in related stories by the Guardian and Fast Company:
Berlin’s regional parliament is considering creating a car-free zone in the German capital in response to a concerted push from a local advocacy group. Continue reading
Bill McKibben’s newsletter on Substack asks the question:
It’s hard to go lower than net zero….
Greenwashing began, as it name implies, as a gentle, barely perceptible rain of fibs. Back at the start, it was mostly pictures; it was pretty easy to gauge how much environmental damage a company did by the number of penguin photographs it felt it needed to include in its annual report. Continue reading
“The problem is, you can’t just turn off, let alone reverse, permafrost thaw,” one scientist said. “It won’t be possible to refreeze the ground and have it go back to how it was.” Photographs by Alexander Gronsky for The New Yorker
Joshua Yaffa reminds me, vividly, that my work in Yakutia 16 years ago was an exercise in futility:
Flying over Yakutia, in northeastern Russia, I watched the dark shades of the boreal forest blend with patches of soft, lightly colored grass. Continue reading
Schoonschip, a floating home development in Amsterdam. ISABEL NABUURS
Shira Rubin, writing in Yale e360, offers a view of Holland’s innovative housing approach to a future where the increase in waterscape can become an advantage. And she illustrates how this might be of use in other parts of the world facing the same challenges from rising seas:
Faced with worsening floods and a shortage of housing, the Netherlands is seeing growing interest in floating homes. These floating communities are inspiring more ambitious Dutch-led projects in flood-prone nations as far-flung as French Polynesia and the Maldives.
When a heavy storm hit in October, residents of the floating community of Schoonschip in Amsterdam had little doubt they could ride it out. They tied up their bikes and outdoor benches, checked in with neighbors to ensure everyone had enough food and water, and hunkered down as their neighborhood slid up and down its steel foundational pillars, rising along with the water and descending to its original position after the rain subsided. Continue reading
KOENIGSHAIN, GERMANY – MAY 19: Aerial photograph of dead conifers in a mixed forest on May 19, 2020 in Koenigshain, Germany. Because of the last years of drought needleleaf forests are infested by bark beetles. Many trees are felled to stop spreading these beetles. (Photo by Florian Gaertner/Photothek via Getty Images)
Gabriel Popkin offers this overview of the history of, and the new German approach to forest management in his article titled FOREST FIGHT, in Science:
Forest researchers Pierre Ibisch (left) and Jeanette Blumröder check a data logger in a pine forest that burned in 2018 and is now being allowed to naturally regenerate. LENA MUCHA
Germany invented “scientific” forestry. But a huge dieback triggered by climate change has ignited a fierce debate over how the nation should manage its trees
SCHWENDA, GERMANY—Last summer, Friederike and Jörg von Beyme stood on a bramble-covered, Sun-blasted slope outside this small town in eastern Germany. Just 4 years ago, the hillside, part of a nearly 500-hectare forest the couple bought in 2002, was green and shady, covered in tall, neatly arranged Norway spruce trees the couple planned to cut and sell. Continue reading
The trunk of the Sitka spruce marked to be cut down.
The soaring, centuries-old Sitka spruce with its blue spray-paint blaze is spared, for now.
A story about a tree, its history intertwined with five centuries of human history, this article earns your time. And it earns respect for the Washington Post, which assigned a star reporter to oversee its climate change coverage.
Juliet Eilperin features this tree’s significance from multiple angles, and accompanied by the stunning photography and video of Salwan Georges, her words are leveraged artfully with images and dramatic arc into a question you want the answer to: This tree has stood here for 500 years. Will it be sold for $17,500? Definitely worth reading on a large monitor rather than a phone screen. It may get you thinking about graduate school:
The Tongass National Forest in Alaska.
TONGASS NATIONAL FOREST, Alaska — The Sitka spruce soaring more than 180 feet skyward has stood on this spot on Prince of Wales Island for centuries. While fierce winds have contorted the towering trunks of its neighbors, the spruce’s trunk is ramrod straight. Standing apart from the rest of the canopy, it ascends to the height of a 17-story building.
This tree’s erect bearing — a 1917 publication called the Sitka species “the autocrat of timbers” — is what helps give it such extraordinary commercial value. Musical instrument makers covet its fine grain, as do builders whose clients want old-growth wood that’s increasingly scarce. In a world whose ancient forests have largely disappeared, this grove holds a sliver of what remains. Continue reading
The former coal miner Gary Webb, right, with his cousins Darrell Davis and Ernie Dials, in Lovely, Ky. Mr. Webb supports the planned solar farm. “It’s good for climate change,” he said. “Anything that helps is good.” Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times
The photograph above speaks to the humanity of coal mining culture in a time when the world is trying to wind down its use of coal. It is not fair, in so many ways, that miners seem to have so few options; but a way forward will be found. The billboard in the photo below may suggest otherwise, but opportunities for those miners are not likely to include coal. Thanks to Cara Buckley for this vivid portrait of a place historically focused on extraction, its people who are in need of a better future, and the tensions that come with making that better future happen:
In Martin County, Ky., where coal production has flatlined, entrepreneurs are promising that a new solar farm atop a shuttered mine will bring green energy jobs.
A billboard advertising mining jobs in Inez, Ky. By last count, the county had just 26 miners left. Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times
MARTIN COUNTY, Ky. — For a mountain that’s had its top blown off, the old Martiki coal mine is looking especially winsome these days. With its vast stretches of emerald grass dotted with hay bales and ringed with blue-tinged peaks, and the wild horses and cattle that roam there, it looks less like a shuttered strip mine and more like an ad for organic milk.
The mountain is poised for another transformation. Hundreds of acres are set to be blanketed with solar panels in the coming year, installed by locals, many of them former miners. Continue reading
ILLUSTRATION: JENNY SHARAF; GETTY IMAGES
Not fun, but a useful review:
The book is not new, but it is new to us. Ben Taub has brought to our attention this stunning portraiture that, like most great photography, makes you wonder how the artist got the composition just so:
Francisco Diaz Ramos, 44, Marissa Reyes, 32, and Jan Paul, 29, run the Güakiá Colectivo Agroecólogico, an 11 acre farm in Dorado, Puerto Rico. Photograph: Angel Valentin/The Guardian
When we look at these young farmers and the work they are doing we see a greener future.
A farmer prepares the land at the El Josco Bravo argoecology farm in the Toa Alta mountains. Photograph: Nina Lakhani/The Guardian
Thanks to Nina Lakhani and The Guardian for this story:
The island imports 85% of its food but these three farms are part of the agroecology movement that seeks food sovereignty and climate solutions
A hydroponics greenhouse at Frutos del Guacabo is used to grow a range of herbs and greens quickly and without soil. Photograph: Nina Lakhani/The Guardian
Puerto Rico was once a thriving agricultural hub thanks to its tropical climate, rich biodiversity, and sustainable farming traditions.
Today, less than 2% of the workforce is employed in agriculture and tens of thousands of acres of arable land sit idle. Meanwhile 85% of the food eaten in Puerto Rico is imported, grocery prices are among the highest in the US and last year two in five people experienced food insecurity. “Unemployment is brutal, prices are brutal, migration from the island is brutal,” said Denise Santos, who runs Puerto Rico’s food bank. Continue reading
A tapir in Braulio Carrillo national park, near San José. Costa Rica’s policy of paying citizens to protect and restore ecosystems is credited with reversing deforestation rates, which threaten the species. Photograph: Michiel van Noppen/2021 Wildlife Photographer of the Year
The stories we use the title Really to highlight are among the heavies. Too much malfeasance, too often. Reading stories about Costa Rica‘s remarkable achievements related to the environment never gets old:
Billionaires, princes and prime ministers are among those keen to learn from the Central American country, which has long put nature at the heart of its policies
If there had been a popularity contest at Cop26, the Costa Rican president, Carlos Alvarado Quesada, would have been a clear winner. Leonardo DiCaprio, Jeff Bezos, Boris Johnson and Prince William all wanted to speak with the leader of the tiny Central American country, eager to bask in its green glow. Continue reading
The Build Back Better legislation included billions to accelerate clean energy like rooftop solar, but with the bill now stalled in Congress, cutting U.S. emissions will be tougher. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Really? is a question we have to ask every now and then. We had no time to waste, because the country with the biggest carbon footprint per capita needed to change something(s) substantially to allow the planet a chance. But one senator stood in the way. Thanks to National Public Radio (USA) for laying out clearly what the stakes were, and now are:
With billions of dollars for clean energy, the Build Back Better legislation has the potential to substantially and rapidly cut heat-trapping emissions in the U.S. But after West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin rejected the bill on Sunday, Build Back Better is effectively dead, at a time when scientists say the world can’t afford to wait on climate change. Continue reading
View of a wind farm in the province of Burgos.
While we were paying attention to many other things over the last decade, Spain transformed into a wind power house. How did we miss it with all the attention we paid to renewable energy? Thanks to El Pais for this news:
Renewable sources already cover almost half of the country’s consumption needs – so far this year, they have contributed almost 47% of the total compared to less than 30% a decade ago
Even if the wind stops blowing in the next three weeks, wind power will end the year as the leading source of electricity in Spain. Continue reading
Wood artisans take remainders leftover after the creation of larger artifacts, and recycle them by tumbling until smooth. An excellent alternative to polished stones, these “renewable pebbles” are available in the Authentica shops in Costa Rica.
We have been offering options on how to spend, while visiting Costa Rica, in ways that benefit the environment here. Small potatoes, but it is what we do.
Much more important for the planet as a whole, and for all humanity inhabiting it, is spending, or rather investing, that can have truly global impact. Robinson Meyer, a staff writer at The Atlantic, and author of the newsletter The Weekly Planet, has this useful guide for citizens of the USA:
Allison Bailey / NurPhoto / AP
A New Estimate of the ‘Most Effective’ Way to Fight Climate Change
Climate-concerned donors should focus on helping to pass climate policy, not offset their emissions, an advisory group says.
On a dollar-for-dollar basis, where will your money do the most to fight climate change? Continue reading
Among the land-based activities available on Svalbard, glacier hiking and ice climbing are perhaps the most challenging — and rewarding. Just watch where you put your feet and your ice axe.
Starting 7+ years ago, each previous mention of Svalbard in our pages has focused on the vault until an article two years ago got us to look up and around. Now again this week we have good reason for looking beyond the vault. Marcus Westberg wrote an article, with stunning photos he took, Bearing Witness to Svalbard’s Fragile Splendor:
The strong summer sun melts the top layer of ice on Austfonna, Svalbard’s largest ice cap and Europe’s third-largest glacier, creating myriad gushing waterfalls.
A never-setting sun very quickly muddles one’s ability to tell time. This photograph was taken just before 11 p.m.; without a watch and regular mealtimes I could have easily mistaken it for any other time of day.
To visitors, the Norwegian archipelago can seem both ethereal and eternal. But climate change all but guarantees an eventual collapse of its vulnerable ecosystem.
Mesmerized, I would lean against the railing at the front of the ship, alone, for hours on end. Over the course of 10 days, no two moments were the same. The Arctic world was constantly shifting and changing around me as we slowly made our way through ice and open sea, past whales, walruses, birds and bears.
Except to keep track of mealtimes, watches were irrelevant; in the summer, this far north of the Arctic Circle, the sun never goes anywhere near the horizon. Continue reading
The Nutmeg’s Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis
by Amitav Ghosh
Published October 2021
Amitav Ghosh, appearing in our pages only once before, has a new book. The title of this review of the book, A Dazzling Synthesis, says plenty, as does the endorsement from Naomi Klein:
We have been aware for centuries that we are responsible for the earth’s denudation: its ‘cold staring spaces’, as English writer John Evelyn called them in 1706, mourning the trees chopped down on his estate. Around a hundred years later, the Prussian explorer Alexander Von Humboldt worried over ‘mankind’s mischief’, conjecturing that if humans ever ventured into outer space, they would carry with them a tendency to leave everything ravaged and barren. (The closer they resembled man, he also observed, ‘the sadder monkeys look’). ‘Are the green fields gone?’ asked the narrator of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, published fifty years after Von Humboldt’s 1801 diary, as he watched his fellow Manhattanites staring dreamily out to sea. Continue reading
We started noticing Climeworks three years ago and have posted about Orca a couple times since then. But the video above is worth the longer look, and our thanks to Yale Climate Connections for pointing to it in their story Iceland facility sucks carbon dioxide from air, turns it into rock:
(Image credit: Climeworks video)
The technology will need a lot of scaling up to make a difference to the climate.
In Iceland, a new facility called Orca is pulling carbon dioxide out of the air so it can be stored underground. Continue reading
Hundreds of billions of dollars could change hands in coming years through a global market in greenhouse emissions. Last month’s climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, approved the new trading system.
This article provides a coherent summary of the carbon trading market’s prospects after the Glasgow Summit, including the key criticism of the scheme:
Carbon emissions trading is poised to go global, and billions of dollars — maybe even trillions — could be at stake. That’s thanks to last month’s U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, which approved a new international trading system where companies pay for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions somewhere else, rather than doing it themselves. Continue reading